Not All Backup Solutions Are Made Equal: 5 Key Questions to Ask Your Hosting Provider

Want to be able to rely on your backed up data? Here are the top 5 things to consider (and discuss with your hosting provider).

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Not All Backup Solutions Are Made Equal: 5 Key Questions to Ask Your Hosting Provider

We all know that backups are important. But what next? Is it enough to simply “have a backup” and be done with it? You can probably tell already that it won’t be that simple. Here top 5 questions everyone should think about as well as discuss with their hosting provider. 

1. How fast would the data recovery be?

An often overlooked but the essential question is the speed of data recovery from your backup solution. If you don’t pay attention to this, you can very easily end up in a situation where the renewal of your project takes 3 days (versus your expectations of 1 hour max). If you are a busy online store, for instance, 3 days offline constitutes a catastrophe.

The speed of recovery depends primarily on the amount of data you’re renewing and on the technology used. The data volume is given by the nature and size of your project – if you run an online business with a huge customer database, you’ll hardly be able to shrink it. However, even if there’s a lot of data to contend with, you can look for a solution that would allow for faster recovery (e.g. snapshot technology is much faster than rsync). Therefore, ask your provider how long data recovery would take in your case and if there are any options to speed it up. 

2. Which backup frequency is best for me?

Another crucial aspect of backups is their frequency. For example, at vshosting~, we include a standard backup package with each managed service that backs up all the data once a day. But if you decide that’s not good enough for you, we can easily provide more frequent backups – say, once every hour (if your production configuration allows for it). 

Of course, the more frequent the backups the more expensive your solution becomes because you need more storage space and infrastructure capacity. Especially if you want to keep all backup versions for 30 days or even longer. So, food for thought – how often do you need to back things up and how many versions do you need to keep stored? 

3. What if the backup fails or gets delayed?

With projects that require backing up a huge volume of data, there’s a risk of the backup not completing within the given time frame. For instance, if you run backups once a day, the backup process needs to finish in 24 hours. If it doesn’t, a delay can occur or the backup can fail entirely. 

At vshosting~, we prevent this from happening by using the ZFS filesystem as the default filesystem for all of our managed services. This filesystem natively supports backups via snapshots, just like the ones you know from virtual server backups. The snapshots ensure that the entire server is backed up as a single file. As a result, the process is super fast – almost immediate in fact. Even data recovery becomes vastly sped up thanks to snapshot technology (compared to rsync for example). 

4. Where is my data stored?

From a security point of view, it is absolutely crucial that the backup is stored in a completely different location than the primary data. Ideally in another data center at the opposite end of town. In the event of a disaster at the location of your primary data, the backups will not be compromised.

It’s actually similar to backing up your computer to an external drive at home. After completing the backup, it is ideal to take the drive to your mother-in-law, for example, in case your apartment catches fire or something.

5. How are the backed up data secured?

Apart from backing your data up to a separate location, it is essential from a security point of view how easily an unauthorized person can access your data. The main defense against this is data encryption and limited access to data. At vshosting~, encryption is a standard measure and the backups of our clients can only be accessed from our internal network. However, you cannot rely on such a standard with all providers.

Don’t settle for having “some backup” from your hosting provider. Be demanding and ask for specifics. Your project deserves the best care.